Friday, May 11, 2012

Oh Barcelona...

Picking up right where I left off, we arrived in Barcelona on a gorgeous Tuesday afternoon and I wish I'd been feeling well enough to do more than glance out the taxi windows now and then on the way to the hotel. Once we'd checked in, Jake (being the most wonderful husband in the entire world) went out to get me saltines and gatorade--because when you're dehydrated from throwing up in a moving train, you gotta replace those electrolites. The "Cool Blue" gatorade reminded us of a non-carbonated Fresca. Most unexpected and kinda weird.

After a few hours of napping, crackers and gatorade, I felt well enough to attempt some room service. Crema de puerro. Leek soup. At first taste I wasn't sure how I felt about it, but after a few more I decided it was fairly good. The crust of Jake's pizza was also pretty good.

By the next morning I was at about 85% and ready to see this gorgeous city. First up was a guided "city highlights" tour, and I'm so glad we did it. We got to see some really fabulous places and learn a lot about the city. Plus, I am absolutely enamoured with Antoni Gaudi, so that makes Barcelona pretty much my favorite city in the world. Except for the Catalan. It's cool and all, but while my Spanish is decent enough, I know almost zero Catalan and in Barcelona it's EVERYWHERE. Ads are in Catalan. Menus are in Catalan. It drove me boig (that's Catalan for crazy, at least I think it is...).

Before the tour we grabbed a quick breakfast in Plaza Catalunya at Farggi and it was all I could do to make myself eat breakfast anywhere else for the rest of the week. The coffee frappe was soooooo good. Jake liked his mocha frappe but I maintain that mine was infinitely better. It's a blend of coffee and, well, gelato. There's just no way that could be bad, right? I grabbed a croissant (something light seemed less likely to upset my stomach) but almost immediately I regretted it. There was an underlying theme to the food on this trip, and it's this: I was almost always at least slightly envious of whatever Jake ordered. Picking a square of ham pizza for breakfast didn't seem likely to evoke envy in the cafe--it might even have garnered a little eye-rolling--but once I tasted it, I knew he had chosen another winner. I think it was made on focaccia bread, which could explain its magical deliciousness.

While waiting for our tour bus outside the Sagrada Familia, we had some more patatas bravas at the little snack stand--not bad, I just wish I had a picture. After seeing Parc Guell and the Sagrada Familia (both designed by Gaudi), the last stop on our tour was Montjuic and Poble Espanyol. I have to say, this has to be one of the coolest ideas ever. It's officially an "open-air architectural museum." The awesome thing about it is that the designers went all over Spain, looked at over 1600 buildings, and recreated 117 of them from 15 different regions. It was built in 1929 for an international exhibition and it was intended to be demolished after the exhibition was over (um, what? that's just crazy) but it garnered such attention that they decided to leave it. Good call. The buildings mostly house shops and cafes, one of which we stopped at for lunch.

The day's lunch featured patatas bravas, tortilla de patata with salad, and a pizza (half margherita, half con jamon and pepperoni). All in all a darn good meal. The tortilla was flavorful and the bravas sauce was creamy (like I prefer it) with a good balance to it. I'm not sure what it is about the pizza in Spain but it's sooooo good. It's much lighter, somehow. We enjoyed it many times.

Looking back it really is amazing that we had the energy to do all the things we did that day. After our tour, we had tickets to the FC Barcelona-Malaga match, so off we went to Camp Nou. If you want tickets to a game in April or May, you need to buy them in October. At least you do if you want 2 seats together. If you don't buy them in October, if you wait until, say, December, you'll have to buy VIP tickets, as they will be your only hope of getting 2 seats next to each other. Okay, okay, I'm done venting. While that was annoying at the time, it was actually not the worst thing ever. VIP tickets come with access to the VIP lounge, which serves snacks and drinks before the game and at halftime. It was where I got to try something that Mireia of Baking in Spain said I had to try: pan amb tomate (bread rubbed with tomato--amb is Catalan for with--see, I'm learning). I couldn't get a photo. It was a real juggling act to eat and drink during the 15-minute break (our seats were on the opposite side of the stadium). I was expecting the bread to be toasted, and I think I would have liked it more had it been toasted, but it was a traditional Catalan food so I'm glad I got to try it.

Walking along the port in Barcelona is just beautiful, and there are so many restaurants on the Carrer de Colon that overlook it. Up to this point, we hadn't had one of the quintessential Spanish foods that I'd been longing for: paella. I fell in love with paella several years ago at Jaleo in Washington DC (it's a José Andrés restaurant so of course it was amazing!) and I was determined to have some ASAP. The first place we stopped along the port was Sedna. Upon further investigation, Sedna, in mythology, is a marine goddess, an apt name for this happily-situated eatery, because the food was absolutely divine.

To start we had fried calamari, cod fritters, patatas bravas and some salmon in vinegar (this time it was exactly what Jake was expecting). It was all fabulous. Honestly, nothing was even so-so, but my favorite was the cod fritters. They tasted like bread balls with fish flavoring. Maybe that doesn't sound awesome, but it was.

Then came the long-anticipated paella. Before we ordered, we had a conversation that went something like this:
Are you going to try the paella?
I guess. It doesn't sound all that good.
I think you'll really like it. Just order it. Trust me.
Okay, if I don't like it I just won't eat it.
Absolutely, honey.
This is not the first conversation we've had wherein I convince my husband to try something he doesn't think he's going to like. And it won't be the last time I smirk victoriously as he has a bite or two, pronounces it okay, and then proceeds to eat almost all of it. (Spoiler alert: Jake requested paella again for dinner the next night.) My vegetable paella had zucchini, eggplant, green beans, peas and peppers. I will have dreams about that paella for years. Jake ordered the mezcla (mixed--because it had seafood and chicken) and, once again, I was a bit jealous. The scallop bits in his dish were quite tasty. He liked his food so much that he even tried the mussels (a first for both of us!).

And thus ends Part 1 of our eating adventures in Barcelona. I didn't intend to split this post in half, but it's already so long and there's still so much good food to write about, not to mention a whole museum of chocolate!
Things to add to my project list:
  1. paella
  2. coffee blended with gelato
  3. focaccia pizza


  1. Pan con tomate should be in toasted bread... it's way better!!! Glad you liked barcelona, sounds like you had an amazing time!!

  2. Your pictures and descriptions are great! I'm jealous you went to a Barca game.